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Smith Island Speed Boats Race Again

by Chris Parks

July 22, 2001

...and they're off!For the first time in over half a century, residents of Smith Island and hundreds of visitors were treated to the spectacle of a speedboat race. The boats were replicas of a type of boat designed and built by Captain Lawson Tyler (1882-1971) of Ewell.

Glad Tyler, Jennings Evans and Glad Tyler, Jr.The event was a fundraiser sponsored by the Crisfield/Smith Island Cultural Alliance. All proceeds will be used to acquire the old Tyler workshop, which still stands on its original site. Once the workshop changes hands, it will be moved to the grounds outside the Smith Island Museum as a permanent exhibit. On hand for the race were Lawson Tylerís son, Glad Tyler; his grandson, Glad Tyler Jr.; and great grandson Tyler Tyler.

Stevie EvansThe event was organized by Stevie Evans, a native of Smith Island who is now a successful contractor in Somerset County. Evans was inspired to build his own skiff after seeing the last known boat built by Lawson Tyler at the Calvert Museum in Solomons, Maryland. Evans has raced his speedboat, the "Island Queen," at Oxford, Maryland. "A lot of the guys from Oxford wanted to visit Smith Island," Evans said. A race at the birthplace of the designer and builder of these beautiful skiffs seemed like a fitting occasion.

There were seven participants in the race. Steve Price in the "Yellow Dog," Jason Sterling in the "Down Necker II," Charlie Bryant in the "Slippery Eel," Keith Adams in the "Double D.," John White in the "Salty Eel," Richard White in the "Captain Lawse," Mark Goode in the "Renegade Crab," and Stevie Evans racing his "Island Queen."

Keith Adams built his boat in Jacksonville, Fla. He plans to donate a replica of a Lawson speedboat when the Tyler Workshop exhibit is established on the grounds of the Smith Island Museum.

The race began at the County Dock in Ewell. The speedboats then motored to Tylerton, and from there to Timmons Creek in Rhodes Point. From Rhodes Point the boats entered the Chesapeake Bay, raced around through the jetties, and back to the finish line at Ewell. At top-speeds of thirty to forty miles per hour, it took less than an hour for the boats to complete the course.

Although the finish was close, Mark Goode in the "Renegade Crab" crossed the finish line first. Charlie Bryant in the "Slippery Eel" finished second. Steve Price in the "Double D." came in third. "Richard White in the "Captain Lawse," had been in the running for most of the race, but gave up his position to double back and help fellow racer Jason Sterling.

Midge Patterson, Director of the Crisfield/Smith Island Cultural Alliance, reflected on the tradition of skiffs in the life of the island. "I have been with this group for ten years," she said, "and so many times I have heard watermen recall getting their first skiff, and how important that was."

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